If you read my last post, you’ll know I was planning on running the Columbus Marathon, which I did. While I didn’t set any course records on fire, it was a great race. Not because of any time goal, or even my performance (which wasn’t stellar-but I finished). It was a wonderful experience because I had the best time I’ve ever had running a marathon (or any race for that matter), because I wasn’t sore at all the next day (still can’t figure that one out), and most of all, because that race taught me a thing or two about distance runners.
I started the race with no real time goal, knowing I’d battled IT band issues, cysts in my knee, and a new aversion my body seemed to have for running in the heat. My only real loose goal was to beat 6 hours, which I did with plenty of time to spare. I tried not to think about the fact that the last time I ran the Columbus I was over an hour faster- and pregnant. I had also trained quite a bit harder. So there’s that.
But really, it wasn’t until after the marathon, as I was watching the New York City Marathon, that I started thinking about the marathon as a metaphor for life. I know the comparison has been around for a while, and probably done to death, but I can see why.
1) First of all, take a good look at everyone at the start line of a marathon. It doesn’t matter where you start, one thing doesn’t change. Everyone at that starting line is different. Some are the “typical” very thin runner types, some very muscular, some very average, and some overweight. But guess what? You can’t tell what a person is made of by looking at them. Are they fast? Slow? You really don’t know, and making assumptions would be a huge waste of time. I’ve been guilty of this before. I think everyone has. I pick out someone lined up near me and think “Wow, she has a perfect body! I am humbled by her presence! I bow down to her fitness!” Then, I beat her. So, sizing up the competition is one thing, but in the end, making assumptions is a waste of time.
2) There are some serious rough patches. I know what you’re thinking. “Well, duh-it’s 26.2 miles. More if you are a middle to back of pack runner.” I know. I start so far back I think my race is probably closer to 28 miles…But those rough parts of the race, those parts that make you want to quit- those are the parts that will eventually make you tougher. If you keep going, you’ll be rewarded. My own tough miles of a marathon are from about 17-23. I doubt my abilities, I curse my body, I lament every decision I’ve ever made in my life. But then I get to a point where I stop trying to sabotage myself. It still hurts, and it’s still difficult, but my resolve comes with a vengeance. I quit feeling sorry for myself, and I come to the realization that I can do it. I can get to that finish line!
3) Marathon-and all distance runners- are tough. That’s really what sets distance runners apart, actually. It has nothing to do with any genetic gift. Oh sure, you need to have a certain genetic component if you want to win a marathon, but to finish, and even to finish well- just takes training and mental toughness. The training, if done correctly, will be grueling, and takes time. But that will to go on, to take whatever hardships are coming, to go on running when all you want to do is quit and go eat bad food or take a shower and a nap- that’s what sets distance runners apart. Distance runners don’t let those thoughts derail them and their goals. Distance runners don’t quit. When it sucks, when it hurts, you just go. You get tired, you get sore, but you get a second, and sometimes third wind.
Distance running leaves you exposed. You’re out there, doing something most people don’t do, and emotions are raw. Digging down deep within yourself is expected, because sometimes just to finish takes everything you have. All of your energy, all of your emotion, all of your will. Just like life, distance running takes guts. People will question why you do it, and tell you that you can’t. They’ll sneer and scoff at your efforts, and say “I told you so” if you don’t win, or if you get hurt, or don’t finish, or sleep in.
So go run anyway, show the world what you’re made of. Show everyone you don’t give up. Keep running, my friends, keep running…